Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in general is a vast subject to cover in a single blog post, optimization requires patience and experience. We will just deal with the basic steps one can take to optimize their Magento stores for better SERP (search engine results page) rankings.
Search algorithms of Google and other search engines are way complex and little information is available in the public domain. For example, even for a simple crawl bot rule such as rel="nofollow", each search engine has different interpretation of it. One thing to note is that e-commerce stores (running Magento or on any other platform) have to face a tough keyword competition as similar products are usually on sale on high traffic online stores, achieving the Domain or Page Authority for the product keywords is a slow process and if you are running a business, it is wise to hire a professional unless you are an SEO expert yourself.
Luckily Magento has some cool backend options to make them search engine friendly, let me show some of effective one's.
1. Make your URLs clean and clear
Always use common characters and product related words for your URLs! It helps your links to be human readable too. Magento by default supports to simplify URLs. Go to : System => Configuration => Web => Search Engines Optimization.
- Enter "URL Options" menu, set "No" for "Add Store Code to URLS" to avoid store codes being added to your URLs.
- Enter "Search Engine Optimization" menu, set "Yes" for "Server URL Rewrites" to remove "index.php" from your URLs.
2. Allow search engines to index your sites
Click through System => Configuration => Design => HTML Heads, and then change the "Default Robots" setting to "INDEX, FOLLOW". You can also try this useful free Yoast Metarobots Magento extension to add nofollow specific non-content pages.
3. Use metadata
Update default metadata info for your store. It is recommended to avoid using the same metadata info for all pages. For example, metadata description for your site will not be appropriate for your specific product pages. Google and others show the metadata description below the link in the SERP. A description relevant to the searched keyword would surely convince the user to follow your link.
- Enter Admin Panel Panel (System => Configuration => Design => HTML heads) and define generic rules for the whole site. To set the title and metadata on a page to page basis, go to individual categories and product pages in the catalog section of Admin Panel.
- Writing concise descriptions with relevant key words for your new categories, products and services help search engines to match user search query to your product link.
- label your files correctly. For example, Instead of "img2345_seo435.jpg", image name as "gift_ribbon_pink.jpg" makes more sense for everyone. This should always be followed with "alt" tag for the image file in question.
- Creating a "URL Key" so that the URLs are specific for the product keyword.
4. Eliminate Duplicate Contents
Don’t dive your site in the ocean of duplicate contents! Magento allows you to sort and easily navigate them all to categories.
Here to dismiss the duplications in URLs, click through System => Configuration => Catalog => Search Engine Optimization and set "No" for "Use Categories Path for Product URLs".
To avoid duplicating contents in case your items show off in various categories, set "Yes" to both "Canonical Link Meta Tag" boxes. Google do not like duplicate contents
5. Google XML Sitemap Generator
Google XML Sitemap is an effective method to communicate with Google search engine. Through the XML sitemap, the structure and essential contents of your web site can be indexed directly.
A huge utility of Magento is that the system enables its own Google XML sitemap generator to help you create and submit an XML sitemap to Google with ease. Click through System => Configuration => Google Sitemap to select your own priority and configure the frequency and the time you want the XML sitemap to be generated. Just save the "sitemap.xml" file to the root level of your server.
To automate the work, just click through System => Configuration => Google Sitemap to hand in your sitemap automatically: Enter "Generation Settings", enable sitemap generation and define the frequency according to your e-store frequency. Thus each time you get your web site update, Google gets your sitemap update, too.
Set sitemap settings upon adding a new category, product or page, so that the sitemap presents all the new items for sure.
6. Analytics Integration
Google Analytics Integration supplies the statistic not only about your visitors but also the keywords and traffic source. You can also see your best performing products and pages.
To enable Google Analytics Integration in your Magento system, click through System => Configuration => Google API.
Set "Yes" for "Enable option" and submit your Account Number.
Popular free SEO tools for your magento store
Some of the free tools we have found useful and easy to use are listed below, give them a try, they will help you understand the basics and also list out the probable areas where you can improve your store SEO.
- Google Webmaster Tools: This is must have and must use tool if you are serious about your store.
- Seoworkers: Free site analyzer tool for beginners.
- Seoptimer: A quick SEO overview of your site, highlighting the errors.
- Lipperhey: Easy to understand results, but for details on fixing you may need to buy subscription.
If you are looking for detailed SEO audit for your site, Moz.com is one of the personal choice. They do have free trial option too.
Should you need further readings...
... here are some great resources for you:
- Moz's SEO Beginners' Guide to SEO
- Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
- Search Engine Journal’s SEO Beginners Guide
- Search Engine Land’s SEO section
- Search Pod1's The Ultimate Guide to Magento SEO
- Essential Magento SEO and Social Media Extensions for Your eCommerce Store
For best results, try focusing on fixing one problem at a time, SEO work can be overwhelming for newbies and its very easy to lose track if you are not focused.